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7 simple ways to prevent chimney fires

8/5/2021 (Permalink)

Install a chimney gate to suffocate the fire

Chimney glass doors can be expensive but also very handy for suffocating chimney fires. They also help to reduce the drafts from traveling through your chimney when you're not suffocating a fire. Purchasing these will still usually be cheaper than your average chimney fire repair cost, which usually ranges between $300-$1500, depending on the damages. If you have a chimney door in place, you can more easily suffocate the fire by covering any airflow gaps in the door.   

Try not to use firestarters

It may be compelling to put some firestarter on the wood to make the flame larger and last longer. However, some firestarters may produce fumes that are not healthy for your home, and they may also raise the flames too high. The most important thing to look out for is keeping your flame controlled. If you have creosote or other flammable residue build-ups, you may ignite the layers if the flame is high enough.

Only burn fire-safe wood

It is best to stick to chimney-safe wood because some firewood and other fuel sources can give off flammable residue or possibly toxic fumes. An example of this flammable residue is creosote. Creosote is a flammable and oily residue that builds up from burning wood. It will slowly build up in layers, giving off a tar-like or grey, crusty appearance. There are also certain kinds of wood that cause irritating fumes. A common example is poison ivy. 

Burning packaging and reading material can create a residue that can adhere to the chimney, creating an additional fuel source and toxic fumes. This flammability is particularly dangerous if the flame sparks or raises too high. 

Check for chimney cracks

A crack in the protective lining of your chimney can unintentionally heat flammable layers and let in moisture. Letting in the creosote fumes in secondary layers increases build-up in areas of the chimney that are uncleanable. It is unlikely that there will be a spark or high enough temperatures in the secondary layer near the build-up, but large flames, high temperatures, and larger cracks increase the risk of it happening. 

Check for water damage 

Water damage leaves corrosion, giving flammable residue more surface area to stick to and increase the fuel available for chimney fires. Even worse, water damage often results in mold, which can be inhaled when burned. Mold can leave fumes that act as an irritant and cause health effects for those who are sensitive or allergic to mold.

Clean any flammable residue

Every fire can produce residue that can be flammable. Creosote is the flammable byproduct of burning wood. This residue builds up over time, slowly increasing the amount of possible fuel in the chimney for a spark to ignite to cause a chimney fire. You can use an anti-creosote chemical cleaning solution for easy to reach places, but a professional may be required for higher or thicker build-up. 

Check to see if your chimney cap is still attached and functioning

Chimney caps can stop debris from falling in or animals from nesting in the chimney. A common example is when birds lay nests in an unused chimney, either blocking airflow or adding flammable debris for when the chimney eventually gets used. Over time, chimney caps can get damaged from storms or corrosion. In some cases, the wind can completely take them off. You can simply look at a certain angle or have a professional go in and check during an inspection or cleaning.

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